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Readers weigh in on region’s top assets

National media often portray the Upstate New York economy in a negative light. And by some economic yardsticks, the upstate region—including Rochester—lags many other metropolitan areas.

By other measures, however, Rochester compares favorably with many metro areas nationwide. For example, Rochester scores well in patent filings, workforce quality and housing affordability. And it long has been a center of international business.

Much attention has been focused on the challenges facing our community. Instead, this week’s Snap Poll sought reader’s views on Rochester’s economic assets.

Readers were split on what they saw as the top asset, and some pointed out that it is the array of assets that make the region strong.

A pair of assets, however, received the strongest support. Higher education institutions, at 25 percent, and a highly education workforce, at 24 percent, are clearly linked. They also are what many pointed to as a key to Rochester’s future

More than 640 respondents participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted March 7.

In your view, what is Rochester’s top economic asset?

Higher education institutions    25%
Highly educated work force    24%
Abundant fresh water supply    13%
Quality of life            11%
Tradition of entrepreneurship and innovation        9%
Real estate price affordability        6%
Knowledge economy sector        3%
Competitively priced labor supply    3%
Geographic proximity to major markets    1 %
Manufacturing sector        1%
Strength in exports, international trade    0%
Other:        4%

This poll begs the question: Our top economic assets aren’t one thing, but rather an ecosystem of many enviable assets from natural resources, affordable, intelligent workforce, almost a score of colleges and rare quality of life aspects compared to the rest of the nation.
—Bill Murtha, CEO, Roberts Communications

Our dilemma with the city of Rochester’s underleveraged (unemployed) labor force—our greatest untapped resource—is that New York State’s mandated minimum wages make this an increasingly difficult asset to develop.
—Gary Graziano

This was a very difficult poll, because all of the options listed are strong ones. Perhaps the weakest is “Strength in exports, international trade,” which I feel is crippled by a low-volume airport.
—Ken Maher

The fact that this economy has survived the death of Xerox, Kodak and Bausch is a testament to the resiliency and innovation of our population. Kudos to all the small-business owners.
—Matt Connolly

We do a fair job with retail along many parts of the canal. Our waterfront along the river seems to be underutilized as a retail corridor. Genesee River needs more exposure and waterfront development. People love being near rivers when they are accessible.
—Michael Quinn, Mission Commercial Realty

New York is the highest taxed state in the country. Additional fees for services make it even less attractive. No matter what Rochester has to offer, it’s a tough sell.
—Kathleen Wright, retired principal, EPIC Advisors Inc.

Rochester is still a heavily divided region with some successful suburbs and parts of the city, but too many dense pockets of poverty and underemployed. Fortunately, the region has many higher education institutions with a vast array of educational opportunities and tracks. The goal of the region should be to make Rochester overall a safe and affordable city and region to live in, where people choose to live. With this being said, educational opportunities need to be affordable and accessible, with options once certifications and degree programs are finished. In addition, the region needs more assistance, both public and private, with seed funding and helping businesses start up and stay viable, especially in the city.
—Keith Newcomer

I think the greatest asset of our community is seen in the strong ethic of our citizens to give back to their community through donations and volunteerism. We are one of the top communities for United Way donations, church outreach, food bank donations, etc. It’s the ‘heart’ attitude of our citizens that no matter what they have or do not have, they will give to others and raise others up. This will continue to strengthen us and bring our community up out of poverty.
—Tabitha McGurk

It’s really the presence and concurrence of all the listed assets that makes Rochester unique. Many other places have some of the above, but we have all of the above. Having grown up in NYC and lived in Boston, I can also add to that list the fact that we have minimal traffic, which in itself is another huge asset versus markets where people literally have to plan their days around rush hours. Having traffic a relative nonissue is no small thing. So our “quality of life” is the overarching sum of the parts. I’ve felt hugely fortunate to have landed here back in October of 1979 when Bausch & Lomb recruited me. While I didn’t stay at B&L very long, I have been in Rochester ever since, as our community has evolved in many right directions. And I plan to be here forever—in large part because we do in fact have “all of the above.”
—Jocelyn Goldberg-Schaible, president, Rochester Research Group

All of these are really strong assets for Rochester. Making a claim based on only a single asset is of little value to any company that is evaluating where to locate. A better question(s) would be ranking these assets among other possible cities/regions. It is worth noting that this list doesn’t mention anything about favorable tax rates … although we already know the reason for that. Unfortunate.
—Robert Levermore, RCL Ventures LLC

It used to be manufacturing. Hopefully, that will come back.
—Paul Dwyer

If the strength of the area is the combination of many of these items, then your polling is misleading and actually useless. It’s no single item, it’s the synergy of many. Why not redo the poll?
—Richard Rosen

3/10/2017 (c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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